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Lots of kids go to Ireland for a better life but disappear. He was OK.

Some kids go missing, while others live like this.

Lots of kids go to Ireland for a better life but disappear. He was OK.
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The Atlantic Philanthropies

The video below is based on a teenager's life. His identity was kept secret to protect his anonymity.

For the sake of this story, I'll call him Jay.


Jay's mom died when he was little, and his father lived a dangerous life. So when he had a chance to leave Nigeria at the age of 15, he did.

"I got the opportunity with my uncle to leave the country, and we came over here and decided to go seek refuge in a country, go somewhere safe."

But when Jay got to Ireland, it was clear that his life wouldn't magically snap into place.

"I never knew anything about Ireland until I came here. And at that point in time, I was like, 'If I go back home now voluntarily, I don't think I'll survive.' But if worst comes to worst, you know ... it's meant to be."

He's not alone. Since 2004, hundreds of unaccompanied minors have come to Ireland looking for better lives, according to the last reported count done in 2009 by the Ombudsman for Children's Office in Dublin, which advocates on behalf of kids.

"My uncle was an agent and just said, 'Go to the Justice Department ... and say, "Here I am."' Then I did that and he disappeared. ... I think I had a short-sleeve shirt on. And it was still sunny back home but it was freezing here."

Classified as "separated immigrant children" by the government, most kids like Jay get a tiny food stipend and are placed in youth hostels throughout Dublin.


"There are about 40 kids in there with just one person. ... Nobody is going to look after you. ... You're just basically told to go look for a school yourself."

After living in a hostel for over a year, 16-year-old Jay was called in for an interview at the Justice Department.

"That was scariest thing that ever happened to me. ... You were asked about ... very obvious things like why didn't I just leave from Lagos straight away. ... I was trying to get out of the situation there. I didn't plan all these things. ... I'm like ... 'I'm a kid, for crying out loud. How am I supposed to know I'm supposed to do this?' I came out feeling like a criminal."

He describes the citizenship process as a mental waiting game — one that not everyone wins.

"At some point, you finish school and then you're waiting, waiting, and waiting. You don't hear anything back for, I'll say, five years. ... If you wake up in the morning, you don't leave that room. You're still in the same surrounding. ... There is a friend of mine right now who is mad just from that. ... He was put in a hospital. ... He was someone who was very lively ... and eventually he couldn't even walk."

After being asked to leave the country, with the help of a teacher, Jay was finally given "leave to remain." He can stay in Ireland temporarily under certain conditions, like going to work or school.

Unfortunately, many of his friends didn't share his fate. Some of them went missing.

Sample missing-child flyers posted in Dublin

"It happened to one of my Chinese friends ... and a man named Zhen. The next day, there's no sign of them. And we asked them, 'What happened? Was he transferred to another hostel and we didn't know?' And his things were still there, obviously, so you're like, this is not somebody who just upped and left."


While most people might fear the worst, Jay says:

"I just want to think in my head that he's somewhere else, living happily and living safe, you know?"

My heart just dropped.

Watch his story in this documentary:

Fact Check Time:

The filmmaker, Anna Byrne, told us that, taking into account the children who weren't officially documented as missing, 500 is a more accurate number for the number of separated children who have gone missing than the Ombudsman for Children's publicly stated figure of 419.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."